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Drugs and addiction are one of the many issues that need to be addressed cooperatively between schools and parents. Without one half of that puzzle, children are more at risk of falling into dangerous patterns of behaviour.

However, in order to effectively address drug use among their students, teachers and schools must first know what they’re up against and then identify methods to educate pupils in ways that are accessible.

Drugs usage research

The What About YOUth? 2014 (WAY 2014) survey found that 26% of 15-year-olds had been offered cannabis and that 11% had tried it. As for other drugs, the results of the survey found that 13% had been offered them and 2% had tried them.

In the same research, however, 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that people their age who take drugs need help and advice.

This suggests that the thirst for guidance is there, if only teachers and schools can find appropriate ways of quenching it.

Be open and honest

One of the most crucial aspects of addressing drug use within schools is to acknowledge it exists.

A school drugs policy is key, allowing the school to set out a framework that all students can be made aware of. If possible, developing and reviewing this drugs policy in consultation with teachers, parents and governors will allow for the greatest scrutiny.

Teachers, especially, should be included in the process as they are often on the front line of identifying drug use and, indeed, a point of contact for many students who may be struggling. Designating a senior member of staff to be responsible for your school’s drugs policy and drug issues streamlines the process.

A sample framework can be found within the “DfE and ACPO Drug advice for schools” document available on the DfE’s website.

Provide information

Information is an integral part of educating pupils against the dangers of drugs. Merely telling them to “say no” doesn’t fill in any of the gaps and encourages those already inclined to rebel.

On the other hand, giving age-appropriate information about the effects and risks of drugs educates in a way that encourages pupils to think for themselves.

Nor should drug education be a simple case of lecturing the class or year group. Instead, structure lessons that involve the pupils and ensure that their viewpoints are being solicited and listened to.

Engaging in discussion is far more effective than listening to a lecture. Utilising real-life stories and posing questions to the class about the given situation is just one way of getting the students involved.

A holistic approach to drugs education

Advice taken from Drugs: Guidance for Schools suggests that a whole school approach is the most effective way to address drug education. It should be part of a supportive holistic programme that allows students to engage and feel confident about it.

A key aspect of this programme must, of course, include adequate training and support for staff and other partners. Teachers, as well as pupils, must feel able to speak up and raise any concerns they have about drug classes and the school’s drugs policy.

Educating children about drugs is a core part of the modern schooling system. Schools and staff can benefit from an integrated drugs policy that focuses on the needs of students rather than mechanical regurgitation of anti-drug mantras that sound hollow to the ears of young adults.